Helen Maria Turner (1858 - 1958)


Girl with Lantern , 1904

oil on canvas

Helen Maria Turner, born in 1858 in Kentucky, was raised in New Orleans by her uncle, following her parents’ deaths. The artist studied at Tulane University and taught at a girls’ school before she enrolled in the Art Students League in New York. As a student there from 1895 to 1899, her instructors included Kenyon Cox, Douglas Volk, and Arthur Wesley Dow. Turner continued her studies at Cooper Union Design School for Women, and traveled to Europe three times with her teacher, William Merritt Chase. From 1902 to 1919, she taught at the art school of the New York YWCA. In 1906, Turner began spending summers at the art colony, Cragsmoor, in rural New York.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased one of the artist’s portraits in 1914, which gave her an entree into more prominent national exhibitions. Three years later, the exhibition Six American Women Painters included her work alongside other prominent American Impressionist painters like Mary Cassatt and Jane Peterson. In 1921, Helen Turner became the fourth woman elected to full membership in the National Academy of Design. She was honored twice in 1927, when she served as the only female juror of the Twenty-Fifth International Exhibition and she held a solo exhibition at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. She returned to New Orleans in 1942, where she lived until her death in 1958.

Girl with Lantern (1904) features a subject common in Turner’s Impressionist paintings, an ordinary woman captured in a quiet moment of reflection.